Note: This is my first attempt to write a Tamora Pierce fic that doesn't revolve around Daine and Numair. They'll still be in here because I adore them and I can't help myself. Oneshots about various Tortallan characters, but focuses particularly on couples. I'd appreciate feedback on this chapter particularly because I love Alanna and George as a couple, but I've never attempted to write them before.
Principal Characters: George and Alanna.
Summary: The night after Alanna accepts George's proposal.
George stared down at the sleeping woman beside him: Sir Alanna of Trebond and Olau, more commonly referred to in awed or bitter voices at 'the Lioness'. It mattered little whether she was revered or hated; her deeds had become legend and her name would be spoken in songs and tales for centuries to come. At the age of ten she had disguised her true sex to undergo a knight's harsh training, during which time she saved the life of a prince and had, through her own sweat and blood, earned herself a reputation as one of the realm's most gifted pages.
Four years later, she followed her prince into the desert where they defeated an ancient and seemingly invincible evil. After she earned her shield at age eighteen, she battled and killed Duke Roger of Conte, who planned to murder her monarchs and take the throne for himself. This had not been the end of her troubles. Upon returning from obtaining the Dominion Jewel she discovered that her twin brother, to prove himself the greatest sorcerer in the Eastern Lands, had raised Roger from the dead.
The Duke had almost torn the land apart. While Jon held Tortall together with battle raging around him, Alanna had hunted down Roger and returned him to his grave - this time permanently. The battle had not been without casualties: Thom, Alanna's twin, Faithful, the familiar of the Goddess, and the Shang Dragon, Alanna's former lover. Consumed by grief, she rode into the desert to the Bazhir tribe who had adopted her.
Alanna was many things to many people. To Myles she was a daughter, and Coram loved her as a father. She was Jonathan's Champion, and once he had seen her as his Queen. To the Bazhir she was The Woman Who Rides Like A Man. There were those who despised her; there always would be. But there were also little girls across the country who brandished sticks and played at being the Lioness.
To George she was Alanna, his darlin' girl as well as his comrade. She was the woman he had waited years for; the woman he would have waited many more years for had she rejected his proposal as she had rejected Jonathan's. George's fated had been sealed with their first kiss; there was no one else he could imagine settling down with and turning respectable for, no one else he could love so completely.
There was much to learn since the last time they had lain together. As well as honour and a powerful artifact, she had also gained new scars. George allowed his hand to drift from the ember stone that he had been toying with to the scar that ran between Alanna's breasts. He traced the toughened line of skin, frowning. Although he tried not to voice it (because he knew nothing he could say would make her stop adventuring), he worried desperately about Alanna when she rode into danger. Of all her scars, this one worried him the most: it was far too close to her heart for comfort. A small, unconscious part of his mind that was afraid of what the answer might be stopped him from asking how she had received it.
Although normally alert, tonight Alanna didn't stir beneath his gentle caresses. The dark circles he had noticed under her eyes upon his arrival attested to many sleepless nights. Perhaps she slept soundly because he was at her side. Or perhaps, George thought with a wry smile, he was just flattering himself.
"You won't sleep if you don't try," Alanna murmured without opening her eyes.
George grinned. He had been too preoccupied with worrying about her scars to notice the change in her deep, even breathing. "I thought you were sleepin'"
"You might have light fingers, George Cooper, but I can feel you staring." She propped herself up on one elbow and blinked sleepily at him. "Is something wrong?"
"I was just wonderin'," he said slowly, "are you sure you want to go back tomorrow?" He was referring to their return to Corus which they planned to begin the following morning. Although George had accepted that Alanna truly didn't regret passing up the opportunity to become queen, she had other reasons to be apprehensive. Returning to the capital meant returning to the pain she had tried to escape by coming to the desert. The city still buzzed with talk of Roger's demise and Thom's hand in the chaos at the coronation; how would she cope with hearing her twin's name on everyone's lips?
"It's time," she said firmly. George surveyed her closely; there was something close to fear in her eyes, but the obstinate set of her jaw told him that she was serious. "Besides," she continued, "we have three weddings to attend and one of our own to plan."
The word 'wedding' brought something that had been nagging at George to the fore of his mind. A small part of him, the part that had wondered how he could compete with princes and Shang Dragons, couldn't quite understand why Alanna had chosen to marry him. "Why me, lass? he asked.
She seemed to understand what he was talking about. "I love you," she said simply. "And you love me."
"Jon loved you," he pointed out softly.
"Not all of me. What he said when I refused him came from spite and anger, but there was some truth in it. He would have expected me to act differently, to compromise when I wouldn't have thought it right. And before you ask, I knew what I had with Liam would never last. He was scared of a part of me."
"When it comes to you, I like to think a small amount of fear is healthy," said George with a devilish smile.
Alanna grinned wolfishly. "Having second thoughts about trying to tame a Lioness?"
"Never," George said, kissing her firmly. "Hush now, we have an early rise in the mornin' and I know how you get without your sleep."
"Well I'm awake now," Alanna said, a wicked gleam in her eyes.
George chuckled. "And I suppose you'll be needin' somethin' to occupy your time?"
"And as my devoted fiance..."
"... I should be the one to fill your idle hours," he finished, pulling her towards him to kiss her smiling mouth.